The Dining Circuit - Pictures, Reviews, Rants

... of the country's (maybe world's) top restaurants, lunch carts, and everywhere in between.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Charlie Trotters (08/14/09)

Charlie trotter was a self-taught chef whose pursuit for perfection had pushed his name sake restaurant "Charlie Trotter" into one of the top restaurants in the world. The restuarnt was situated in a european style house near DePaul University. The dining room consisted two floors. Two menu choices were available: the vegetable and the grand menu. Guests were free to ask for any accomodations.
Kumamoto Oyster with Perseved Radish & Sake
Champagne Laurent Perrier "Brut L. -P." NV

The Kumamoto oyster was its usual self: briny and succluent. It paired well with the yuzu sake gelee. The perseved radish added a touch of fresheness.
Cold-Poached Cod Cheek with Heirloom Tomato Relish & Thai Basil
Gruner Veltliner Smaraged "Loibner Kreutles" Knoll, Wachau 2005

Cold poached cod cheek sits in a dressing of olive oil, basil, and tomatoes. The small tomatos were the best I had, and the firm cod meat provied a nice background.

Tempura of Japanese Ayu with Iberico Chorizo & Red Plum Consomme
Neyers Chardonnay Napa Valley 2007
Charlie Trotter's version of fish and chips. The fish was crispy, and the sauce had a good balance of acidity. Though not as sophiscated, it was a good change of tempo.

Roasted squab breast and thigh
Barbera d'Alba "Vigna Martina" Elio Grasso 2005

The original grand menu was full of sea food dishes. It was well known that Mr.Trotter was a master of meat and game, I requested to have my Octopus replaced by squab. The squab breast was very tender, the skin of the legs was nicely browned, and the wine sauce was superbly executed, an impeccable dish.

Elysian Field Rack of Lamb with Preserved Lemon, Black Mission Figs & Charred Cinnamon

Ribera del Duero "Tinto Pesquera-Crianza" Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez 2005
The lamb rib chop was tender, the tongue was firm , and the belly was full of lamb fat flave. The protein was accompanied with lamb jus, mint pistachio puree, and burned cinnamon. A beautiful play of textures and very gutsy to serve in a tasting menu style. The pairing of the wine made this dish great. The alcohol in the wine carried the oil of oregano and cinnamon powder directly into my brain cavity, quite a breathtaking effect.
Red Shiso Sorbet with Mango & Grains of Paradise

Shaved Goat Chesse with Chocolate Sauce
Tokaji-Aszu "5 Puttonyos" Chateau Pazjos 1999

We asked for a cheese course in place of the red raspberries with honey & sage. Strangely, the dish is not sweet at all; the airy shave goat chess is on top of a slice of the same goat milk chesse with bitter chocolate sauce. The sweetness only came from the accompanied sweet wine.

Arbequina Olive Oil-Chocolate Chip Parfait with Fraise des Bois and Oregano
Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Port 2004
The pairing of caramel chips, wild strawberries, olive oil worked in harmony. I wouldn't have expected that olive oil would have worked so well with caramel, a perfect finish.
Overall, the dinner at Charlie Trotter is my best this year which tops a starred the lineup including French Laundry, Manresa, Alinea, and Inn at Little Washington. The pairing of food and wine at Charlie Trotter is transcending, and I was blessed that night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Topolobampo (08/14/09 Chicago)

Topolobampo, originally named as a port on the Gulf of California in northwestern Sinaloa, Mexico, is the flagship restaurant of chef Rick Bayless. After doing his doctoral work in Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Rick Bayless spent six years in mexico where he did culinary research and wrote the now classic cookbook: "Regional Cooking From The Heart of Mexico (William Morrow, 1987)". In 1987, Rick having moved to Chicago, opened the hugely successful Frontera Grill, which specializes in contemporary regional Mexican cooking and gained instant sucess. In 1989, Rick opened next to Frontera grill the elegant Topolobampo. Since then Topolobampo has been one of the few mexican fine dining restaurant in american, and won countless awards from James Beard , Food & Wines, and etc.

We visited Topolobampo at lunch, and the dining room of Topolobampo was quite small and cozy.

It was about 30 minutes wait before our server present us with chips and salsa, and we were starving.

, For appetizer, we ordered the seafood platter. Around the platter were three different oysters, scallop ceviche, and ahi tuna ceviche. The oysters were served with chipotle barbecue sauce and fresh lime sauce. While the chipotle barbecue sauce was too salty, the lime sauce served as perfect platform to bring out the oyster's milkiness and briness.

The ahi tuna ceviche was tossed with crunchy jicama and tangy, fruity, spicy red chile-apricot chamoy salsa. With the tuna slightly cooked by the acid, the whole glass tasted refreshing and crunchy, remind one of a luxurious thai salad.

The scallop ceviche was much firmer and a bit rubbery comparing to raw scallops, quite interesting.

For main entree, we shared the traditional mexcian platter which included braised then fried pork, shitakes, pickeled onions, shrimp in black mole sauce, tamal, and home made tortillas. The pork and and the shrimp is a bit over fried to bring out the carmalizing aromas of the protein. Combing with the fluffy tortillas, pickled onions, and black sauce, this dish tasted like a mexican version of peking duck, with better balance and more satisfying aftertastes. It is a dish which makes people happy, simply happy.

For dessert, we had Klug Farm blueberry tart with macadamia nut crust. Local sweet corn ice cream. I wasn't able to taste the sweet corn flavor from the ice cream, but the pairing of a warm tangy tart and a cold sweet ice cream was always a winner. The crispy macadamia nut crust, and lighter than air coconut dust played wonderful complementary roles. The dark roasted mexican coffee added depth to the whole dessert. Overall, a satisfying dessert
to end a satisfying dinner.

On the whole, my lunch at Topolobampo did not surprise nor impresse me. Instead, it gave me pleasure from start to finish. I can not wait to come back to topolobampo again, or even goto mexican city for more. To me, Topolobampo is an invitation to mexico.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bayona Restaurant (07/11/09 New Orleans)

Bayona restaurant was in a beautiful 200-year-old Creole cottage in the French Quarter. The food was decidedly international, as Chef Susan Spicer refuses to be classified as creating meals in one genre. Back in early 90's, when Bayona just opened, it was considered at the forefront of American cuisine.

For starters, I ordered veal sweetbread with lemon caper sauce, which was very tasty. Small squares of tender veal bread was sauteed to golden brown, garnished with proper cut vegetables and a drizzle of lemon juice.

Liver and onion stuffed rabbit roulade, paneed leg, fig marsala sauce, proscitto, and creamy polenta

The rabbit roulade was the best dish of the main course. The rabbit meat was very tender, while the liver brought in a nice touch of gaminess.

Grilled Painted Hill Hnager Steak, Aspragus, Fingling Potatoes and Bordelaise Sauce

Peppered lamb loin with Goat Cheese and Zinfandel
The steak and lamb were similar. A nice cooked piece of meat with good saucing, tasty but not memorable.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Watermelon Sorbet

To close out the dinner, we had blueberry cheesecake and watermelon sorbet. While the cheesecake was rich and satisfying, the watermelon was everybit as refreshing. A great way to end the meal.
Athough, Bayona was not as refiend as August or Stella, it was a very satisfying meal, and ranks better in my book than some new orlean restaurants with similar price tag: Cochon, Cuvee, and Commander's Palace.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Restaurant August (03/08/2008 New Orleans)

Restaurant Augsut, situated in Central Business District, is the preimere restaurant in New Orleans. Head Chef John Besh, a former Marine, has won numerous acclaims, including the Jame Beard award. My companions and I that night ordered the five-course tasting menu, which was only $75 a person with an additional $25 wine pairing. The amuse bousche from the chef was truffle infused egg sabayon. An air like egg moose with truffle scents was scooped by my companion and I in no time, this approach was better than the "egg caviar" and "egg le aprege" I had at Jean & George and Manresa.


The cracking sound of a Baguette was always the best prelude to any dinner. Even air bubbles and bread aroma emerges as I broke the Bauette into two.

First Course: Pâté
Rabbit, Foie, and Boar Pâté were accompanied with salad or compotes. The dish was tasty but not mind blowing.
Second Course: Crawfish
Quite large crawfish cooked in cream sauce. which was delicious. However, we already had amazing spicy boil crawfish at French Market , so we weren't impressed.

Third Course: Chargrilled Quail
The grilled quail was presented under a bed of Arugula, but wasn't particularly tender. The dish was just ordinary.

Overall, the dinner at August restaurant was delicious but not mind blowing. The ingredient had New Orleans written all over , and the cooking technique was French. At the end, there was just very little suprise element in the cuisine except the Amuse Bousche.

About Me 关于作者

Well, It's should be more of a "About Us". Afterall, This blog is a combined effort of a group of foodie's attempt at partially capturing their experiences of exploring the dining cultures of various culture and cuisine. Our Team are as follows:

Trading Dweeb - A self-proclaimed bastard-ish trader who's interest in food often outshine work.
势利小人 - 职业股票操作者,也就是广东人口里的“扑街”。对食物的热情往往比工作要炽热。

Dr.T - A student of food.

TechMoGeek – An explorer of culinary delights who’s love for food is the sole motivation to be employed.
TechMoGeek -一個只愛美食,不愛江山的老饕